"Abuse" sounds physical, but Jemma, age 17, says it can be financial as well. Elder financial abuse ranges from a caregiver stealing spare change to emptying thousands of dollars out of a checking account. Don't let this happened to you or any of your relatives.

Jemma helps her grandma to help her stay safe in these areas:


Learn how to protect online accounts. Jemma discovered that her grandma kept account numbers on post-it notes throughout her apartment—where her cleaning lady and others easily could see them. Worse, because she has trouble remembering her passwords, she had written them down next to her account numbers, and they were all easy-to-guess family names.

You would never leave blank checks sitting out. When you leave your passwords exposed, it is just like exposing blank checks. Please keep account information out of sight, and make your passwords hard to guess. Be sure to combine capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols in your passwords.

If you have trouble remembering passwords, try downloading a legitimate software that manages passwords with one master password. Find sites like Password Safe that are free and easy to use.

Online banking:

The Internet makes it easy to check your balance, manage your budget, and make sure no one has hacked into your account. Jemma suggested to her grandma to use online banking as well. "Nana loves to bank in her pj's. She hops on the Internet to see if her Social Security check has been deposited." Jemma's grandma also uses automatic payments for her electric, phone, and credit card bills.

Make sure the financial websites you use are secure. Secure sites have an "s" after the http, for example, https://. You should avoid logging in to financial accounts from public computers. If you do log in from a public computer, be sure to not to tell the computer to remember your log-in information.

Shopping online:

Jemma's grandma is terrified of shopping online. It's great that she's cautious but, with some basic Internet safety, she easily could shop online without risks. Jemma recommends using a credit card when shopping online. "Using a debit card online is not the safest; it provides access to your savings and checking accounts," she says.

Credit cards can offer you security and makes it less likely that you'll have your checking and savings account sabotaged. Credit cards also offer identity theft protection. If someone steals your card number and racks up charges, you may not have to pay for those charges if you report it quickly.

Ask your children or grandchildren on how to check if the websites you shop from online are secure. One thing you can look for is the little padlock in the browser frame. You can double click on it to see the certificate of verification.

Spam financial e-mails:

You may not be as skilled at catching spam as your children and grandchildren. It's probably easy for them to spot a spam financial e-mail, called "phishing. Jemma tells her grandma, "If you receive an e-mail that claims to be from your financial institution and contains a link to a website, don't click on the link. Instead, navigate to the website by manually typing in the address to make sure the e-mail isn't a scam."

"Elder abuse is serious," says Jemma. It can empty bank accounts of unsuspecting older Americans. By learning Internet safety and teaching it to elderly relatives, we can help protect others from this abuse. Hawaii Central Federal Credit Union also helps by using protective measures to fight plastic card fraud.

Copyright 2013 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved